I finished reading some of Chris Hedges recent articles posted online. They are written like a love letter to someone dear to him. They captivate and draw me in with the passion, heart and accuracy of his words. Though he is a learned man, quite intellectual, his writing is such that this is not stale journalism- rather it pours out from the bones raising prickly hairs on my arms with such accuracy. This is resonance. Please see the following excerpts I find more than exceptional…

A glass tower filled with people carefully selected for the polish and self-assurance that come with having been formed in institutions of privilege, whose primary attributes are a lack of consciousness, a penchant for deception and an incapacity for empathy or remorse. The curious onlookers behind the windows and we, arms locked in a circle on the concrete outside, did not speak the same language. Profit. Globalization. War. National security. These are the words they use to justify the snuffing out of tiny lives, acts of radical evil. Goldman Sachs’ commodities index is the most heavily traded in the world. Those who trade it have, by buying up and hoarding commodities futures, doubled and tripled the costs of wheat, rice and corn. Hundreds of millions of poor across the globe are going hungry to feed this mania for profit. The technical jargon, learned in business schools and on trading floors, effectively masks the reality of what is happening—murder. These are words designed to make systems operate, even systems of death, with a cold neutrality. Peace, love and all sane affirmative speech in temples like Goldman Sachs are, as W.H. Auden understood, “soiled, profaned, debased to a horrid mechanical screech.”

We seemed to have lost, at least until the advent of the Occupy Wall Street movement, not only all personal responsibility but all capacity for personal judgment. Corporate culture absolves all of responsibility. This is part of its appeal. It relieves all from moral choice. There is an unequivocal acceptance of ruling principles such as unregulated capitalism and globalization as a kind of natural law. The steady march of corporate capitalism requires a passive acceptance of new laws and demolished regulations, of bailouts in the trillions of dollars and the systematic looting of public funds, of lies and deceit.The corporate culture, epitomized by Goldman Sachs, has seeped into our classrooms, our newsrooms, our entertainment systems and our consciousness. This corporate culture has stripped us of the right to express ourselves outside of the narrowly accepted confines of the established political order. It has turned us into compliant consumers. We are forced to surrender our voice. These corporate machines, like fraternities and sororities, also haze new recruits in company rituals, force them to adopt an unrelenting cheerfulness, a childish optimism and obsequiousness to authority. These corporate rituals, bolstered by retreats and training seminars, by grueling days that sometimes end with initiates curled up under their desks to sleep, ensure that only the most morally supine remain. The strong and independent are weeded out early so only the unquestioning advance upward. Corporate culture serves a faceless system. It is, as Hannah Arendt writes, “the rule of nobody and for this very reason perhaps the least human and most cruel form of rulership.”

Our political class, and its courtiers on the airwaves, insists that if we refuse to comply, if we step outside of the Democratic Party, if we rebel, we will make things worse. This game of accepting the lesser evil enables the steady erosion of justice and corporate plundering. It enables corporations to harvest the nation and finally the global economy, reconfiguring the world into neofeudalism, one of masters and serfs. This game goes on until there is hardly any action carried out by the power elite that is not a crime. It goes on until corporate predators, who long ago decided the nation and the planet were not worth salvaging, seize the last drops of wealth. It goes on until moral acts, such as calling for those inside the corporate headquarters of Goldman Sachs to be tried, see you jailed, and the crimes of financial fraud and perjury are upheld as lawful and rewarded by the courts, the U.S. Treasury and the Congress. And all this is done so a handful of rapacious, immoral plutocrats like Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs who sucks down about $250,000 a day and who lied to the U.S. Congress as well as his investors and the public, can use their dirty money to retreat into their own Forbidden City or Versailles while their underlings, basking in the arrogance of power, snap amusing photos of the rabble outside their gates being hauled away by the police and company goons.

Those who resist—the doubters, outcasts, renegades, skeptics and rebels—rarely come from the elite. They ask different questions. They seek something else—a life of meaning. They have grasped Immanuel Kant’s dictum, “If justice perishes, human life on Earth has lost its meaning.” And in their search they come to the conclusion that, as Socrates said, it is better to suffer wrong than to do wrong. This conclusion is rational, yet cannot be rationally defended. It makes a leap into the moral, which is beyond rational thought. It refuses to place a monetary value on human life. It acknowledges human life, indeed all life, as sacred. And this is why, as Arendt points out, the only morally reliable people when the chips are down are not those who say “this is wrong,” or “this should not be done,” but those who say “I can’t.”

There are streaks in my lungs, traces of the tuberculosis that I picked up around hundreds of dying Sudanese during the famine I covered as a foreign correspondent. I was strong and privileged and fought off the disease. They were not and did not. The bodies, most of them children, were dumped into hastily dug mass graves. The scars I carry within me are the whispers of these dead. They are the faint marks of those who never had a chance to become men or women, to fall in love and have children of their own. I carried these scars to the doors of Goldman Sachs. I had returned to living. Those whose last breaths had marked my lungs had not. I placed myself at the feet of these commodity traders to call for justice because the dead, and those who are dying in slums and refugee camps across the planet, could not make this journey. I see their faces. They haunt me in the day and come to me in the dark. They force me to remember. They make me choose sides. As the metal handcuffs were fastened around my wrists I thought of them, as I often think of them, and I said to myself: “Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, I am free at last.”

Read the full article: Finding Freedom in Handcuffs

Get back into your cages, they are telling us. Return to watching the lies, absurdities, trivia and celebrity gossip we feed you in 24-hour cycles on television. Invest your emotional energy in the vast system of popular entertainment. Run up your credit card debt. Pay your loans. Be thankful for the scraps we toss. Chant back to us our phrases about democracy, greatness and freedom. Vote in our rigged political theater. Send your young men and women to fight and die in useless, unwinnable wars that provide corporations with huge profits. Stand by mutely as our bipartisan congressional supercommittee, either through consensus or cynical dysfunction, plunges you into a society without basic social services including unemployment benefits. Pay for the crimes of Wall Street.

The process of defection among the ruling class and security forces is slow and often imperceptible. These defections are advanced through a rigid adherence to nonviolence, a refusal to respond to police provocation and a verbal respect for the blue-uniformed police, no matter how awful they can be while wading into a crowd and using batons as battering rams against human bodies. The resignations of Oakland Mayor Jean Quan’s deputy, Sharon Cornu, and the mayor’s legal adviser and longtime friend, Dan Siegel, in protest over the clearing of the Oakland encampment are some of the first cracks in the edifice. “Support Occupy Oakland, not the 1% and its government facilitators,” Siegel tweeted after his resignation. 

Read the full article: This Is What Revolution Looks Like

Thank You Chris for using your extensive and refined skills for the people of this planet, the earth herself and all the living creatures.

I am finding myself now focusing on my consumption habits and impulses. I try letting the desires, impulses and ‘needs’ pass by attempting to locate the root cause of wanting something. Chocolate, I really want that chocolate cookie. Well, I realized, I just want something sweet. What do I have that is sweet? I could be just as satisfied with tea and honey actually. And how often have I bought a cookie and it was too sweet for me?- Often. And if I still really want the chocolate cookie, well I will just go home and make a batch- quadruple the cookies for half the price. And not only that, I decided I will make only a couple cookies now and freeze the dough so the next time I crave, I just pull out a couple more, stick them in the oven and in 8 minutes (faster than I could run to the store) I’m in heavenly bliss.

Kripalu’s March Newsletter contains the following article I found very insightful:

Surviving a Financial CrisisLongtime yogis, authors, and cofounders of the sustainable investing firm Abacus, Brent Kessel and Spencer Sherman share their wisdom for these economic times.

Contrary to what we might at first think, everything that we do on our yoga mats and meditation cushions has so much to teach us about our personal financial lives—and about the global financial challenges we’re all facing.

In yoga practice, when we overstretch one part of the body, we usually pay the price in another joint, tendon, or muscle. When we’re injured, an astute teacher will direct our attention to the larger joint that is “upstream” of the injured area. So if our elbow is suffering, we’re very likely misusing the shoulder or upper back. If our knee is aching, the roots of our pain can often be located in a flaccid thigh muscle, an overly flexible hip, or just a plain lack of core strength.

Our economy is no different. The muscle which appears broken right now is the credit market, and by extension, the stock market and real estate values. But the “upstream” culprit is our own overconsumption—a result of our desire for things, including everything from electronic goods to houses, too many of us were willing to buy on credit items that we actually couldn’t afford. To survive this recession together, we must individually become aware of the insatiability of our own Wanting Minds, a term coined by the Buddhists to describe that part of us which can never have enough.

creating awareness

Awareness is the critical first step, but, to be effective, it must also lead to informed action. As you go through your life, see if you can first notice, and then let go of just one impulse of wanting per day. You may want a new stylish coat for this winter, or a laptop computer, or perhaps something as trivial as a chai latte. Instead of rushing out to satiate your impulse, create a noticeable pause between sensing your want and taking action on it. This won’t be effortless, because the things we buy do often bring temporary relief, and we’re now going to be foregoing that.

The big mistakes that we make with money happen when we’re jumping to the future, trying to avoid our present experience, and almost always, when we’re “barely breathing.” Going shopping to numb the pain in a relationship, or lack of a relationship. Selling everything out of an investment account to not experience further losses, or the fear of running out of money.

The practice of yoga teaches us to use the breath to bring awareness to the moment, and is particularly useful in those moments when we want to do something, anything, to escape our suffering—whether it’s being caused by an asana, a relationship, or sitting at the dining room table paying our bills. Breathing into these moments slows us down, creates space. In reaction to a rumble of financial insecurity, we may think “I’m not going to be okay. I need to do something. Spend. Save. Give money to someone.” This is the best time to simply breathe. The breath is here as long as we’re alive. It’s the cycle of death and rebirth. It is the foundation of our life force, of which money is but one manifestation.

spend, save, give

Whether we tend toward over-spending, over-saving, or over-giving, if we can become much more curious and spacious right when that emotional tremor first arises, we then have the sacred opportunity to just be with that first wave of emotion, or anxiety, or emptiness. If we stay present with our direct experience without rushing to our familiar money habits, then the sense of emotional need passes, and usually much sooner than we expected.

So does this actually effect our financial bottom line? When this emotional need passes, so does our need to go shopping, which saves real money, and by extension, our life energy. When this need passes, our excessive frugality passes, and we now have the opportunity to use our money to be generous with others or ourselves. When this need passes, we stop lending and giving money to friends and family and begin taking as good a care of ourselves as we do of others.

Robert Frost said, “The strength of a man is in the extremity of the opposites he can hold.” As we increase our capacity to witness and bring awareness to the emotional disturbances that are almost always the precursors to our financial actions, we are then able to choose to cultivate the opposite financial habit. This is real financial freedom, when we are able to choose to act financially in ways that allow us to ride out the waves of crisis in all forms and create lasting nourishment for ourselves—and that’s got to be good for the planet as a whole.

Brent Kessel and Spencer Sherman are both practicing yogis and the authors of It’s Not About the Money (HarperCollins 2008) and The Cure for Money Madness (Random House 2009) respectively. They are the cofounders of Abacus, a nationwide sustainable investing firm.

Money = Our Life Energy

February 23, 2009

I am currently reading ‘Your Money or Your Life‘. Last Thursday I read an article about a couple who changed their life. They mentioned this book. Later that day unexpectedly, I was early for an appointment and happened to be across the street from a bookstore. I decided to pass the time there and thought, maybe I should check out the book. I asked the clerk and she said it was downstairs. I had a lot of stuff with me and before I could decide whether or not to go downstairs, she offered to get it for me. Surprised, I said ok. She came back and when she handed it to me she said ‘there’s a small tear in the cover, we can give you a discount for that’. Now I became very suspicious of why this book which I had never even heard of a few hours ago was so eager to fall into my lap. I bought it and yes, yes, it is definitely the most holistic life-changing book on money, happiness and quality of life I have ever seen. I just want to read to you one quote:

…some people would say that, once we’re above the survival level, the difference between prosperity and poverty lies simply in our degree of gratitude.

The first thing I took deeply from this book is their step on how to evaluate what you’re really making from your current job now. I’ll try to explain it so you can try….

The principle is this: what time and money do you spend before and after your job that is a direct result of having that job. If you didn’t have that job, would you really need to wear that tie, or shave your beard, or put on mascara? Calculate all the moments you need before work just for that job, and then the time afterwords that many of us need to cool down, let it all go, and decompress. How much time after work do we need to calm down? Sometimes, we even need to go treat ourselves to make us feel good. The second part is about the extra costs, including transportation, the clothing, the extra chocolates to make us feel better, all the way to the time and money on ‘vacations’ to get away and unwind that we probably wouldn’t take if we didn’t have our stressful jobs because life would be happy. You can also include cleaning, childcare, therapy, medical expenses etc. Calculate this on a per week basis- time per week and money per week. Now, add the time to your 40 hours per week or whatever it is that you work. Subtract the money per week from your weekly pay and voila’! Now you can calculate your true hourly wage! The book has an example of someone making $680 for 40 hrs per week ($17 per hour). Taking in account all the things I mentioned above, the person adds 30 hours onto 40 (70) and subtracts $285 from his paycheck (=$420) and the resulting pay is a measly $6 per hour. That is shocking! It also puts things into serious perspective. Try it!

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